Last week I introduced the fossil Mrs. Ples and one of her discoverers in the form of Dr Robert Broom an Scottish medical doctor who found himself doing some rather interesting work rummaging around in the rocks of South Africa as a palaontologist.
He later became the professor of zoology and geology at Victoria College, Stellenbosch, South Africa, and later keeper of vertebrate paleontology at the South African Museum, Cape Town.
Below is a commemorative bust of him holding the Mrs. Ples scull that stands at the exit or entrance to the Sterkfontein cave. the caves made famous in the beginning by his efforts and excavations there.
He first became known and respect for his voluminous work describing the mammal like reptile fossils of the Karroo region in South Africa.
The mammal like reptiles are an odd bunch... not as famous as their movie star Jurassic cousins but no less interesting from an evolutionary perspective being the lineage that would later give rise to the later mammals and eventually us.
Here are a couple of pics I took of some specimens that were on display recently.
and of course a more familiar dinosaur
Broom's find of Mrs. Ples backed up Ramond Dart's Taung Child and only then did it begin to be taken seriously.
Later he discovered Paranthropus robustus which I covered here:
all of these discoveries though controversial at first lead to the gradual inclusion of South Africa on the paleoanthropological map
What makes him interesting to me is this little snippet I found on Wikipedia:
Broom was a nonconformist and was deeply interested in the paranormal and spiritualism; he was a critic of Darwinism and materialism. Broom was a believer in spiritual evolution. In his book The Coming of Man: Was it Accident or Design? (1933) he claimed that "spiritual agencies" had guided evolution as animals and plants were too complex to have arisen by chance. According to Broom, there were at least two different kinds of spiritual forces, and psychics are capable of seeing them. Broom claimed there was a plan and purpose in evolution and that the origin of Homo sapiens is the ultimate purpose behind evolution. According to Broom "Much of evolution looks as if it had been planned to result in man, and in other animals and plants to make the world a suitable place for him to dwell in."
After discovering the skull of Mrs. Ples, Broom was asked if he excavated at random, Broom replied that spirits had told him where to find his discoveries.